This year’s prize of the ethecon Foundation - Ethics & Economics, the International Black Planet Award, goes to the Tokyo Electric Power Company, TEPCO. The price is well-deserved and long time due. The Japanese Electric Power Company gave proof of not being in the position to lead nuclear power plants in a faithful way, at the latest with its disastrous crisis-management at the multiple nuclear meltdown in Fukushima. The power company has long been famous for its unspeakable sloppiness, frauds and cover-ups. Since the mid-80ies TEPCO faked documents and covered up events of fault. That was released in 2002. A change of the board of directors following on this event couldn’t find a remedy though: sloppiness in inspections and overhauls continued and several emergency shutdowns with critical reactions stayed furthermore secret. It was pure luck that the catastrophe didn’t happen earlier.
Fukushima brought us a dramatic déjà vu. The „Umweltinstitut München e.V.“ („Environmental Institute Munich“), which was founded as direct reaction to the Chernobyl catastrophe, was immediately on alert. Our telephone lines ran hot and many people were reminded of the chaotic information politics of that time. The confidence in official measured data or benchmarks and commendations is still very little and – as in the past - people turn to indipendent institutions.
After the Chernobyl catastrophe we had the advantage that an active anti-nuclear movement was born out of a peace movement. Also critical scientists who worked in the atom industry changed allegiance due to unforeseeable risks of atom techniques. Such conditions were entirely missing in Japan. It’s a mystery to us that a land which experienced two atomic bomb releases and still suffers the aftermath, is dealing in such an unconcearned way with nuclear power. In addition, since earthquakes and tsunamis are not a curiosity in Japan.
It is therefore all the more pleasant that the Japanese are taking the law into their own hands. In the past months we welcomed interested Japanese citizens several times. They asked us about our work after Chernobyl. What interested them most were our possibilities to measure radioactivity with a gamma ray spectrometer and our continuous surrounding air observation. The most frequently asked questions from Japan are:
Which actions can I take as an individual for me and my kids?
How can I protect myself from radiation?
Can I trust the official evaluations?
What can I still eat?
How can I measure and evaluate by myself?
They are taking our answers and suggestions gratefully home. We get bottom samples, which we test for radioactivity becuase there are still only few independent gamma spectrometer measurements in Japan. Moreover, we will soon be able to measue alpha and beta rays as well as plutonium and strontium. The new instrument of measure is already purchased. We will gladly continue to offer our help and keep in touch with our Japanese friends.
Meanwhile, there exist few organizations in Japan which are at the moment establishing an independent measuring network. We hope that this will help to allocate reliable information. Furthermore, we hope that they can setup a strong counterbalance to the still atom-friendly politics and economy in Japan. There’s no future for nuclear power in Japan, the energy turnaround has to go on in an accelerated way. First and foremost, we hope that the irresponsible elevation of the yearly boundary value for children will be revoked. The evacuation zone must be enlarged – its the children who must receive superior protection.
Basically, a negative price is not at all adequate, TEPCO should have been shown the „red card“. We wish our Japanese friends that the new government will take drastic action and will withdraw TEPCO’s license to operate a nuclear power plant.